Visitors to the French capital can generally rest assured that they will be tripping over works of art as soon as they step out of their hotel; stroll down a boulevard and there seems to be a charming and intimidatingly elegant art gallery on every other corner. But perhaps your budget doesn’t stretch to the boutique offerings of Saint-Germain and the Upper Marais? If you’re looking for something a bit edgier, head to Belleville in the North-East of Paris. Between Belleville’s Chinese supermarkets and North African couscous joints is a growing gallery district that has developed exponentially over the last decade.
Galerie Jocelyn Wolff
A heavy velvet curtain conceals this unexpected space from street level. Galerie Jocelyn Wolff is one of the few sites in this neighbourhood with ample space to display larger works. A church-like atmosphere reigns within these concrete walls, upon which Clemens von Wedemeyer’s projections from the P.O.V. show have pride of place. A haunting assemblage of archive footage from World War II and video montage featuring ordnance survey maps, the work is representative of the conceptual work and the eclectic stable of artists Wolff has nurtured since he first arrived in the neighbourhood in 2003.
78 rue Julien-Lacroix
This pocket-sized gallery has expertly exploited every last inch of exhibition space; visitors can even wind their way down a miniature spiral staircase to the luminous white box housed by the building’s basement. The gallery specializes in photography and video: a recent show featured the mysterious and glowing images of Julien Mauve. Small red stickers indicating a purchase adorned more than two thirds of the work on the walls the last time we looked. The price list will certainly appeal to smaller budgets; framed pieces in this collection rarely go beyond €5000. Evidence that Sandrine Calard and Yan Di Maglio have remained true to their mission: defending the work of their photographers. The gallery’s founders seem to be fighting the good fight, albeit with an eye for style and quality.
12, rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020
The space might be limited, but it is all-encompassing: not the white walls of a gallery but the immersive experience of stepping into an installation. At the moment that experience is provided courtesy of the poetic sculptures of British artist Charlotte Moth. Marcelle Alix’s founders refuse to attach their work to one single guiding principle, explaining that the artists they defend come from all backgrounds, all countries and all career stages. They affirm their “determination not to follow a straight path but to take any number of detours in order to keep [their] desire alive, to proceed in a spiral rather than a linear fashion”. A circular and endearing approach to contemporary art which, so far, has served them very well.
4 rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020
Left: Charlotte Moth, Living Images (3), 2015
Right: Charlotte Moth, “lightly in the world”, Marcelle Alix, Paris, 2016
Images © Aurélien Mole, courtesy of Marcelle Alix, Paris
Perched at the top of Belleville’s picturesque park, the dimensions of the 22,48m gallery will be familiar to anyone who’s been on the hunt for an apartment on a shoestring budget in Paris: these twenty-two square metres are about the size of an artist’s studio, a student’s humble dwelling or – in this case – a charming gallery space showcasing the work of emerging French artists. Over the last six years, the gallery’s made a name for itself locally for its commitment to arts education projects, as well as internationally thanks to its presence at a handful of major European fairs. The space is currently adorned with the graphic constructions of Lucie Le Bouder, an artist whose work in three dimensions (or two) explores the notion of projection in both an architectural and a luminous sense. Site-specific sculptures cast shadows upon the gallery’s floor and throw a coloured glow onto its walls. Her preparatory sketches and decoupage drawings are also displayed and many are available at more accessible prices. Framed works start at around €500.
30 rue des Envierges, 75020
Above: Scene #1, Lucie Le Bouder, 2016.
Below left: Scene #4, Lucie Le Bouder, 2016.
Below right: Arase (on site installation), Lucie Le Bouder, 2016.
The saturated flash of colour in the window is in stark contrast with the austere, industrial exterior of the Sultana gallery, and indeed, with the grey Parisian pavements that surround it. All the more reason to head inside and check out the joyful imagery of Walter Pfeiffer, the 70 year-old Swiss artist whose work looks fresher than many of his young acolytes. Flowers, body parts, a snatched profile are captured in video and photography; the neat selection on show here includes important examples of Pfeiffer’s work from the 1980s, as well as more affordable prints from recent projects. The gallery has an all-embracing approach to the work it defends: young, old, French and international – you can find anything from oil paintings to multi-media installations on this corner of Belleville’s main boulevard.
12 rue Ramponeau, 75020
Walter Pfeiffer, 2016. All images © Aurélien Mole, courtesy of Galerie Sultana.
Winding your way further into the heights of Belleville, the Galerie KO21 provides an unexpected artistic pit-stop in this suburban setting at the very edge of Paris. With a particular interest in African Art, the gallery was one of the more popular stands at the recent Also Known As Africa Art Fair in Paris. The artists represented are a mix of painters, sculptors and photographers coming from as far as Congo-Brazaville and as close as the local streets. Their backgrounds are equally as diverse, from self-taught to the formally-trained. The unassuming site of KO21 could easily be mistaken for a co-working space or indeed, an artist’s studio; many of the practitioners live and work locally. The gallery’s owners manage to magically extend its four walls to accommodate larger installations or more ambitious group shows, spilling into accompanying buildings to host one-off events. A sign that this creative endeavour has been welcomed warmly by the local residents, and that the gallery has its sights set on more expansive projects in the years to come.
78 rue Haxo, 75020